The Internet provides a great marketing edge for those real estate agents ready to jump aboard the technology train and become involved—and it's easier than you think. Just incorporate the following seven steps as outlined for increased productivity and more effective marketing.
Step 1: Own your domain
As a real estate agent, you are more than likely an independent contractor, and your career is built upon marketing and making a name for yourself. While it's great for you as a career agent to have the support of a company or franchise, most of your business and repeat business is because of you, and not the company.
The methods you employ and the work you do to make your name well-known in the community is known as branding. The same process is followed on the Internet, except you become known as "You.com."
Owning your own domain gives you the ability to maintain both a permanent e-mail address and a permanent Web site address. The money you spend to build that name and domain accumulates over the years, as your community brand becomes your Internet brand as well. It's your job to spread the word about your brand name.
Step 2: Make the most out of your Internet presence
Understand how and where your listings and services are currently being marketed on the Internet, and then decide what you can do to improve your current position.
For example, are you maximizing your current exposure? Do you have an e-newsletter that people can sign up for on your Web site?
Most properties offered for sale in the country are being marketed on Realtor.com. The first reason consumers go to real estate Web sites like Realtor.com is to view photos of properties. Realtor.com allows six pictures for each property, and yet, if you did some random searches on that site, you would find that very few real estate professionals take advantage of this opportunity.
Purchase a digital camera and take it to every listing appointment. If you use Realtor.com, submit the maximum number of pictures allowed. Virtual tours add an exciting new dimension to Web sites, as consumers are able to seemingly step into the picture and look around, which is the next best thing to being there. Also, as bandwidth expands, video Web tours are gaining popularity. Sample tours are available at Ipix.com.
Finally, using e-mail to drive visitors to your site is one of the most under-used tools available to the agent. Create an e-mail distribution list of your sphere of influence. Whenever you create a new feature to your Web site, such as an article about recent changes in the tax laws, send out an announcement by e-mail and include a direct link to the new page.
Step 3: Create a Web site that is a personal Web portal
Consumers today are always looking for information, and you can help them — not just with information about real estate, but with information that they might use regularly. The number one Web site tip for real estate agents is this: Develop a Web site that people will visit and return to even when they are not interested in buying and selling real estate.
For instance, create a link on your site to TheTrip.com, a travel site where you can use their FlightTracker to follow the real time progress of flights in the air and receive accurate estimated times of arrival. People might not remember the Web address of that flight tracker they saw on your site (particularly if it was framed within your site), but they will likely return to your bookmarked site the next time they are checking on an arriving flight.
Also, consider compiling useful information about local restaurants, sights of interest, churches, and clubs. Combine this with a visual tour of the scenic points of interest in your area.
Step 4: Integrate your current marketing efforts with your Internet efforts
Creating a successful Internet marketing strategy requires the integration of conventional, proven, and successful marketing strategies with the marketing opportunities available on the Internet.
While search engines might help to drive people to your Web site, your own efforts can bring the fastest and most direct results.
If you look at all the companies on the Internet today, they are spending millions of dollars to market and brand their URL (Web address). You must personally brand your URL by directing everyone you communicate with to your Web site. Your URL should be on all your conventional marketing pieces, even your sign riders. Don't forget to include your e-mail address on all your marketing materials as well.
Step 5: Create an Internet marketing presentation portion of your listing presentation
Today, sellers are beginning to ask: "How will you market my home on the Internet?" Your listing presentation should include very specific information about that.
Include the following in your written listing presentation:
- Your personal Web portal.
- Traffic count of your Web portal from your site statistics feature (this should be part of any Web site template service you purchase or any proprietary site you build).
- Your listings that are already on the Internet (on Realtor.com, HomeAdvisor.com, CyberHomes.com, or HomeSeekers.com).
- If your listings are on Realtor.com, include site statistics (for example, "Each listing on Realtor.com received an average of 114 views.").
- Your broker's site and site statistics.
One of the most effective ways of conveying information about your Web site is to incorporate screen shots into your listing presentations. It's also helpful to learn how to use simple presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint. These skills can put you ahead of 99% of your competition when it comes to communicating Web marketing to prospective sellers.
Step 6: Create materials that help buyers find information on the Web
If you have buyers who are not familiar with the availability of listing information on the Internet, tell them how to find real estate sites and how to search for property. Next, tell them how to contact you if they find a property that they are interested in, need more information about, or would like to see in person.
The best way to do this is to create a one-page flyer describing how to find information on the Web. This is helpful document in and of itself; moreover, it constitutes a wonderful piece of marketing material. You add value as a real estate professional by helping the consumer understand the Internet.
Serious buyers might provide you with profile information about the kind of property they are seeking. You, in turn, can create an e-mail alert that notifies the buyer when a matching property appears on the market.
One word of caution about obtaining information online from prospects: Be sure to tell them how you intend to use the information, and point out that you will not sell the data to other parties. Including a privacy statement on your Web site is advised.
Step 7: Learn more about developing opportunities on the Internet
Loan sites, rate watch sites, agent matching sites—dozens of helpful opportunities and services are coming online. Not all of the new sites promise success, but it is useful to learn what you can about them and use whichever resources can help your business. It can cost your business if you are unaware of the changing real estate landscape on the Internet.
One of the best ways to stay on top of the evolving landscape is to visit real estate news sites and subscribe to e-mail alerts. Inman News (Inman.com) has an e-mail alert that you can sign up for free of charge. Realty Times (Realtytimes.com) publishes excellent articles about new real estate Web sites and Internet trends.
Make the most of your Web site
Creating a Web site with attractive content is not enough. Consider how to design your site so that customers can find it, are drawn to it, and have a reason to return to it.
Use the same traditional marketing strategies to continute branding online. Create a domain that has your brand name. Your permanent Web site address includes this brand, and you can incorporate it into all of your existing advertisements. Consider which locations on the Internet are best to position links to your site for view by your target audience. When you select sites, take full advantage of the features they have available, including picture postings.
Help your customers understand what the Internet can do for them — and keep yourself up-to-date about all it can do for you. The Internet offers unlimited opportunities for real estate sales, but only a few in the business know how to use it to their full advantage.
About the authors Saul D. Klein, John W. Reilly, and Mike Barnett are the principals of InternetCrusade. InternetCrusade operates the e-PRO Certification course, an educational program sponsored by the National Association of Realtors and specifically designed to help real estate professionals use technology effectively. Klein, Reilly, and Barnett are also the authors of the Real Estate Technology Guide.